Iowa’s Chief Justice hopes to take Supreme Court oral arguments “on the road” again soon

MASON CITY — Iowa’s Chief Justice says she hopes the Supreme Court will soon be able to bring back the program where cases are heard in different parts of the state.

The state’s highest court in the past has scheduled special sessions in several communities away from Des Moines to hear attorneys’ oral arguments on various cases, but since the start of the COVID pandemic, they’ve only met once outside of the capital city.

Chief Justice Susan Christensen says she enjoys being able to take the court out to different parts of the state to give Iowans an opportunity to hear more about the role of the courts and see what the Supreme Court justices do in deciding cases.  “We do miss out on our visits, we like to go across the state and have ‘court on the road’, that’s something we had to shut down. We love doing that. I love doing it in the smaller communities, and even like this size, you guys roll out the red carpet. Whenever we do it in Des Moines, they are like ‘eh, they are in town every week, no big deal.’”

Christensen says communities enjoy learning more about the Supreme Court process.  “If we come to a small town, that’s a big deal. I am always so proud to be sitting up there because a lot of my colleagues are urbanites and I’m like ‘this is the life of the rural countryfolk, don’t you love it?’ So that’s something that’s changed. We hope to get back onto that.”

Christensen says the Supreme Court did hold oral arguments in Oskaloosa back in September but shut down the idea of future dates outside of Des Moines after the most recent COVID flare-up.

The Iowa Supreme Court last held “court on the road” in Mason City back in October 2012 and held oral arguments in Charles City in February 2020 right before the start of the pandemic.

Christensen made her comments during a stop in Mason City last week.